Tina Alexis Allen’s storytelling proves riveting in memoir
“Hiding Out: a Memoir of Drugs, Deception, and Double Lives” (Dey Street Books), by Tina Alexis Allen
Tina Alexis Allen grew up harboring a secret from her 12 older siblings and devout Catholic parents. While her father ran a travel agency specializing in Holy Land tours and her mother shrunk back from his rage, Tina sunk into affairs with older women between basketball games.
When Tina was 18, her father uncovered her secret and confided in his daughter that he, too, was gay. Suddenly, the angry, rigid and often-drunk father she’d known wanted nothing more than to pass away his nights downing bottles of wine with his youngest child in underground dance clubs before attending morning Mass.
Soon after divulging his hidden life to Tina, Sir John, as he preferred to be called, ushered his daughter into the travel agency, intent on leaving the business to his trusted confidant. Once there, Tina began to realize that her father’s deception ran deeper than she’d once thought. He kept multiple passports, duplicate briefcases under his desk and seemed to carry more clout and cash than one would suspect of a travel agent.
The memoir brims with drunkenness, sexuality and urgency. As a storyteller, Allen is unafraid of the graphic, yet uses those scenes to push forward her narrative. Her gift for holding up the seemingly common to the light, turning it this way and that to unveil gut-punching emotion, is apparent from the first page. As her mother tugs support stockings over a “wrestler-size thigh,” her father screams over empty ice trays. From a worn bathrobe to a lavishly set dining room table for 15, Allen’s details give heartbeat to every scene.
Allen showcases excellent writing skills, packaging grit and grime into glistening prose. Her twisted mystery, family woes of the nastiest kind and multilayered love stories spin together to form a “can’t-put-down” read in “Hiding Out.”